This book is honestly so blah I kind of forgot I read it (not 100% the book’s fault, we pulled off a frankly spectacular wedding last weekend so I’ve been a little distracted) (did y’all catch that? WE GOT MARRIED AND IT WAS PERFECT OMG) I felt like I should have been fascinated by this book, but it just didn’t grab me. The whole book just kind of floated by.
Our narrator is Sepha Stephanos, living in Washington, D.C., after fleeing the Ethopian Revolution as a boy. Stephanos is an exceptionally passive person which rarely makes for an exciting story – everything happens around him while he exists. He runs a corner store in Logan Circle in the first breaths of gentrification which has my kind of book written all over it and watching the narrative of the neighborhood response was by far my favorite part. But it’s also the part that spoke most directly to me – I recently lived just north of Logan Circle and have now moved to one of the most rapidly gentrifying parts of the city, it’s whiplash knowing my neighborhood had literal police checkpoints barely a decade ago.
One thing I did really like about Stephanos was that he’s a walker. This was a book about D.C. that didn’t focus on the soaring architecture of the federal enclave – rather it narrowed in on the leafy residential streets lined with painted rowhomes, which is my favorite part of D.C. Oh man and now that’s it’s fall? You really can’t beat a crisp, sunny fall day in the district. Just gorgeous.
Plotwise, Stephanos is letting his store collapse around his ears. His only friends are two other African immigrants and they tell the same kind of stories every time they catch up. He begins to get close to a new neighbor – a first wave gentrifier who would have made BANK if she’d held onto that house – and her young daughter but that falls apart too. It’s a small story, which isn’t bad, this one just wasn’t for me.
Oh there was a scene where Stephanos and his friends celebrate by going to Royal Palace which sounds like a Chinese restaurant but is actually a stripclub that only closed down like this year. It was on the corner on a very much “shops and restaurants” kind of neighborhood and I always giggle wondering how many tourist families accidentally stumbled in looking for a cheap buffet.